Do Toxic Parents Cause Depression?

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Your parents are supposed to be your support system and give you unconditional love, but if one or both are narcissists, you’ll likely experience trauma instead. Their toxicity can cause long-lasting harm to many aspects of your personality, but can their narcissistic abuse cause depression? 

Toxic parents engage in a number of behaviors that undermine their children’s development. Narcissistic parents can create narcissistic children, and the narcissist’s constant need for adoration can rob their children of their own childhood. All of this can result in depression and other problems. 

To understand this better, let’s look at how narcissists view and treat their own children and the long-term effects that can have. 

How the Toxic Behavior of Parents Affects Their Children

There are two general ways in which narcissistic parents treat their children, and the behaviors in both cases typically have very toxic and long-lasting effects. The overall goal for both is to undermine their child’s ability to break away from the family unit. 

Entitled and Special

One way that toxic narcissistic parents might treat their children is as part of a special family and they, therefore, deserve special treatment. In this scenario, narcissistic parents are basically raising their children to become narcissists themselves. 

They effectively teach their children to be entitled which can greatly handicap them as they seek to integrate themselves into the society at large. These kinds of children grow up to be selfish, entitled, and demanding. They may have difficulty fitting in and forming long-lasting relationships. 

They become narcissistic, and as a result, they are unable to internally support themselves. Their self-esteem and self-worth suffers as they increasingly need external validation to feel good about themselves. 

The older they get, the more they may seek to rebel against their parents, and if they do that, they risk being emotionally abandoned and rejected. If their toxic parents feel they aren’t living up to the family’s high expectations, they may begin to criticize them. and undermine their self-confidence. 

These children grow up to be either excessively rebellious or overly attached to their parents. In either case, it causes long-term problems including substance abuse and depression. 

Never Enough

The other general way that toxic parents treat their children is by heaping narcissistic abuse on them from an early age. These parents are excessively critical of everything their child does and makes them feel as though they can never do enough to please them. 

These are the children whose parents constantly criticize their every move. They do so because they are fearful that the actions of their child will reveal them to be bad parents. They see their children as extensions of themselves instead of as independent human beings. In an effort to control for the possibility that they will reveal the abuse they’re suffering, these toxic parents are intrusive, judgmental, and hypercritical. 

The children of this kind of narcissistic parent are constantly having their self-esteem undermined. Sometimes, the parents will succeed in crushing the child’s ego which results in that child being unable to make a move without their parent’s approval. 

That suits the narcissist just fine since their goal is to control the situation so they won’t look bad to their friends and family members. These children can become virtually unable to act on their own behalf. If they are able to resist their parent’s toxicity, they will still likely have long-term problems with their self-esteem and self-confidence. 

It’s not uncommon for that to translate into abusive relationships as an adult. After all, they never learned what a real loving relationship is like. 

Can Toxic Parents Cause Mental Illness in Their Children? 

Can Toxic Parents Cause Mental Illness in Their Children

The answer is most definitely yes. Their toxic treatment of their children can cause them to become narcissistic themselves or suffer from other types of mental illness such as depression and anxiety. 

Researchers at the University of Punjab in Pakistan in 2014 found that psychological abuse on the part of parents is, in fact, related to mental illness in adolescents. They studied 300 participants and found a strong correlation between parental psychological abuse and problems with anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity, and post-traumatic stress problems among other mental illnesses. 

The results were similar regardless of the gender of the abusive parent. They also found that their results were consistent with other studies showing a strong correlation between psychological abuse and mental problems like major depressive disorder, personality disorders, and low self-esteem. 

Specific Long-Term Effects

The long-term effects of this type of toxic behavior  on children include things like problems with establishing strong boundaries and developing trust in their adult relationships. Adult children of toxic parents also tend to take on the role of parent at an early age and feel responsible for the wellbeing of others throughout their lives. 

They also have more problems with feeling alienated as well as recurrent irrational beliefs and fears. In the world in which they were raised, nothing was predictable, and so it’s not surprising they would have problems in this regard. 

This can make them either too distant and cold in their relationships or hypervigilant, particularly as it relates to their own children. They also tend to have problems with substance abuse, and they have difficulty forming and maintaining long-term romantic relationships. Instead, they tend to bounce around from partner to partner. 

It’s not surprising, therefore, that the children of toxic parents will likely become toxic parents themselves. They were not provided with a proper role model on parenting and tend to repeat the patterns they experienced. 

Final Thoughts

Toxic parents leave a horrific legacy for their children that includes problems like depression, anxiety, and a host of other mental illnesses. The children themselves often don’t even understand the effects of their childhood on their adult behavior. 

Instead, they attempt to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, retreat from forming long-term relationships, and become abusers themselves. Mental illnesses like depression and anxiety are common long-term effects of such toxic abuse. 

Now that you understand more about how toxic parents affect their children, you might like to view this post in order to learn about strategies for detaching from such abusive parents


If you want more tips for dealing with narcissists, setting boundaries, and managing emotional triggers, make sure you subscribe to my youtube channel


Narcissistic abuse takes a terrible toll on your life. I’m Patricia, and my mother is a narcissist, so I know what you’re going through. These blog posts will help you understand narcissism better and give you tips for dealing with the narcissists in your life. Healing starts here!

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